You know the song "Whatta Man" by Salt-n-Pepa? It's my theme song for Nate whenever he's a mighty-good man (which is a lot). I actually sing it to him, and sometimes I get all the way to the first verse—"I wanna take a minute or two, and give much respect due, to the man that's made a difference in the world"—before he leaves the room.
So in honor of my Whatta Man, here's his hands-down favorite pasta—a manly mix of hot sausage, peppers, onion, and garlic. It's actually my favorite homemade pasta dish, too. It's based on an "Acadian Rigatoni" recipe in a Food & Wine pasta book that's a frequent go-to in my kitchen.
Make it for your Whatta Man—I promise he'll love it!
Whatta Man Pasta
1 tbsp. cooking oil
1 lb. hot Italian sausage
1 onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 cup half-n-half cream
1 3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 pound rigatoni
Heat oil over medium heat. Add sausage and cook while stirring. Add onion, celery, green pepper, and garlic. Cover pan the cook until vegetables are just soft (about 10 minutes). Mix together tomato paste and half-n-half (I use a little plastic Ziploc container with a lid and shake, shake, shake); add to pan along with salt and a few twists from your fresh ground pepper mill. Cover and simmer on low for 15 minutes longer. In the meantime, cook the rigatoni in salted water until just done. Drain and toss with pasta sauce. Sprinkle liberally with shredded parmesan.
Note: This pasta is incredible with a powerful, pepper-y red wine (we usually have a Syrah).